Stranded after the crash of the Cybership she helped to sabotage, Charley is cut off from the Doctor, and sets about building a crude crystal radio set to signal S.O.S. into the ether. She’s relieved when the TARDIS appears, but when she steps through the doors, she’s left speechless when she meets its occupant – the sixth Doctor, not the eighth. She’s very evasive about her origins and how she got to the future, which immediately raises the Doctor’s suspicions. The TARDIS next lands in Ackley House, an apartment block in Manchester in 2008 – in the apartment of a man who appears to have been murdered. Charley goes to find help, but never makes it back to the Doctor; instead, he’s found by the police and charged with murder. Charley has been abducted by a woman who lives in one of the other flats, and is held captive there until she manages to break free. When the body of the murder victim vanishes, the Doctor is off the hook, but he’s found a receptive ear in D.I. Menzies and continues to enlist her help in an investigation that involves aliens, money, and – despite appearances to the contrary – murder. Along the way, however, the Doctor begins to suspect that the girl he rescued from the future isn’t who she claims to be.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charlotte Pollard), Anna Hope (D.I. Patricia Menzies), Will Ash (Sam), Sara De Freitas (Maxine), Lennox Greaves (Dr. Aldrich), James George (Slater), Diana Morrison (Antonia Bailey / Jane), Sephen Aintree (D.C.I. Turnbull / Goon / Police Officer / Guy in Gym), Steve Hansell (P.C. Blackstock / Police Officer / Guy in Gym)
Timeline: for the sixth Doctor, it is unknown if this takes place before or after his travels with Evelyn; for Charley, this story takes place immediately after The Girl Who Never Was
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: On its own merits, The Condemned is a murder mystery with an interesting SF twist, putting the Doctor in the middle of something that isn’t likely to be the subject of a TV crime show anytime soon. But that’s not the only mystery the Doctor is trying to unravel here, which makes this one a real dandy – because the listener is in on the secret, and the Time Lord isn’t.
The big secret, of course, is where and when Charley comes from, and how a girl who the Doctor instantly pegs as a resident of the early 20th century could take all these unusual things in without it rocking her back on her heels. Charley is almost entirely self-sufficient in this story, largely because the Doctor spends most of the time unaware that she’s in danger, but one also gets the impression that he’s not sure she’s someone he should be worrying about. Charley has to do a bit of dancing around the truth to avoid revealing the Doctor’s own future to him (though she’s unaware, at this point, which Doctor she’s dealing with). Once reunited, it’s obvious that the Doctor and Charley – any Doctor – make a formidable team. The beauty of it is that one can’t imagine a single incarnation of the Time Lord – at least among the performers available to Big Finish – who could possibly be further removed from the Doctor’s sensitive eighth incarnation. (Christopher Eccleston would be a good contender if he was on the Big Finish roster, but he’s not.)
Where exactly that whole thread is going is anyone’s guess, though I hope that the two characters can at least reach some sort of detente where the Doctor isn’t constantly suspicious of Charley. I also hope we don’t get an eventual convenient cop-out (to say nothing of a rip-off of the novel “Cold Fusion”) along the lines of “the Doctor did remember Charley, and that’s why he rescued her in his eighth incarnation”. This bizarre reboot of Charlotte Pollard’s adventures in the TARDIS is one of the most daring things Big Finish has done in character terms, and all I can really think is…don’t screw it up, and tell some good stories within that framework.
The Condemned boasts a superb cast of guest stars, especially the likeable Anna Hope as D.I. Menzies. I grew so fond of that character that I’m almost hoping that she too shows up in the future, perhaps as a Brigadier-esque ally for the Doctor…though it might strain credulity if the Doctor keeps coming back to Manchester over and over again. (Then again, what makes that any less likely than visiting London and/or Cardiff over and over again?)
This is a neat story that seems to revolve around the premise that Charley was simply too good a character to let go to waste. Having heard The Condemned, and Charley in this story’s new context, I can’t help but agree.